Thermal springs in Italy
Thermal springs in Italy
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Do you have muscle pain, joint pain or stress? A warm mud bath in a spa rich in sulfur and minerals does wonders and usually helps you get rid of it. It has been successfully used for centuries in the treatment of various ailments. Mud baths benefit from removing excess fluid, especially in the tissues of the legs, abdomen and hips. The most important ingredient is, of course, always the thermal spa water.

Thalassotherapy is also great especially if the water is rich in iodine, it is, among other things, ideal for joint pains. The effect is anti-inflammatory and has an effect on bones, joints and cartilage and is therefore particularly good for all kinds of osteoarthritis, rheumatism, osteoarthritis and for complaints resulting from stress. There are many thermal centers in Italy with international recognition, from Abano Terme to Montecatini Terme to Salsomaggiore and the spectacular island of Vulcano.

Thermal baths in Italy are often centuries old. A good example is Saturnia in Tuscany, often found in the Etruscan culture, way before the Romans. But the spa baths gained fame mainly because the Romans were aware of their beneficial effects on their health. The water of the thermal baths has been used since ancient times for the treatment of rare diseases in both humans and animals. Especially the Romans saw a stay at a spa as a good vacation and built all kinds of services around the baths, including theaters, stores and restaurants, and they became major vacation destinations, as the abandoned ruins of the destination Carsulae near the natural springs of San Gemini in Umbria show us.

The remains of the old Roman city Carsulae

In the time of Emperor Augustus, Carsulae became a Roman 'municipium'. He started a number of extensive structures, including the amphitheatre, a large part of the forum and the marble-lined Arch of Trajan (now called Arco di San Damiano). During the 'golden age' Carsulae had become a thriving and prosperous city due to agricultural activities in the area. The idyllic surroundings, the large complex of thermal baths, spa, theaters, temples, and other public facilities, attracted rich and even middle-class "tourists" from Rome. In the past, the locals collected and sold sulfur mud in dried round chunks to the visitors (nice souvenir), but it was also often sold to farmers who used the chunks against diseases in sheep or cows. Thermal baths and spa have become a major industry in Italy today, often supported by large luxury hotel chains, but there are some sources where you can go and bathe free of charge or enjoy the beneficial mud. 

The public 'fango' pools  on the island of  Vulcano

Most baths and spas can be found in 5 regions: Trentino, Tuscany, Sicily, Lazio and in the Veneto, besides other regions such as Piedmonte, Aosta or Abruzzo. The largest or most famous thermal baths are those of Abano Terme and Montegrotto Terme in Veneto (part of the thermal area in the Euganese hills),Montecatini Terme,Chiancano Terme, San Giuliano Terme, Saturnia in Tuscany and Acqui Terme in Piedmonte, almost all are of Roman origin except Montecatini Terme. Besides these there are several natural spa's for which you usually have to make a small detour. These 'natural baths' are often located a short walk away from the main road and have no or very limited facilities.

Piedmonte spa and springs

The center of Aqui Terme, in the background the fountain

TERME DI ACQUI

Since 1893 Genoa has a direct train connection with Acqui Terme, and I have planned to visit the hot springs of this town on the border of Liguria and Piedmonte as my first trip after the lockdown. The hot springs of  Aquae Statiellae have existed since Roman times. In 1870, Giovanni Ceruti designed a small pavilion, known as La Bollente, on a square in the center of the city where water of over 75 °C  bubbles up through a large fountain. The spring water is enriched with sodium chloride, bromine, iodine, remnants of the seas that covered the Po Valley millions of years ago. It is also enriched with the sulphates and sulphides of the gypsum deposits at the bottom of the collection tank. The water of the spring is particularly useful for joints and muscles pains. An old tradition says that newborn children were taken to the source to be immersed in it: if they came out alive, they deserved the nickname 'sgaientò', which translates as scorched. On the website they indicate 3 different zones for spa treatments and baths.  The most important zone is in the center,  the "Nuove Terme" which is merged with the hotel and where you can visit the 'Lago delle sorgenti' as well. The other area is located in the viale Donati and is called "Regina". The last zone is a large monumental swimming pool filled with water from the spring. Mud therapy is a therapeutic treatment that has been documented in Acqui since the fifteenth century, the "Lago delle Sorgenti" has been documented much earlier. Acquese mud balneotherapy is the most popular treatment and is covered by an agreement between the Terme di Acqui and the National Health Service of Italy. For more information see  https://www.termediacqui.it/

The hot thermal water in the fountains of the city of Acqui Terme

Veneto terme and spa

The area of the Terme Euganee is of very ancient origin. The natural resources, which were once present in the whole area, can now only be found in a few places. The Euganese springs are surrounded by the green forests of the Colli Euganeii, now a large regional park. The springs are among the most famous in the world. The main centers of the Euganean spas are Montegrotto Terme, Abano Terme, Battaglia Terme and Galzignano Terme. Water, earth and air are the 3 natural elements and characteristic of Thermae Abano and Montegrotto. The territory of Abano and Montegrotto Terme is rich in hyper-thermal waters and mud that have had an uninterrupted healing effect for over 27 centuries.

  • The Water: the salt-bromine-iodine thermal waters of Thermae Abano and Montegrotto, a unique source
  • The Earth: the thermal mud of Abano and Montegrotto Terme, a treasure trove of nature and experience
  • The air: the benefits of the inhalation therapy of the Euganese spas
Abano Terme

ABANO TERME and spa

The Abano Bagni can be found in the Veneto region on the eastern slope of the Colli Euganei about 10 kilometers southwest of Padua. My friend Susan lives in the area and contributes every year to the economy of Abano Terme by passionately praising the hot springs and mud baths which, as she says, help her rheumatism. The water has a temperature of about 80 °C (176 °F), and was known to the Romans as Aponi fons or Aquae Patavinae. You can still visit the remains of the ancient baths (S. Mandruzzato, Trattato dei Bagni d'Abano). Geryon's oracle was located here as well, and the so-called sortes Praenestinae, small bronze cylinders with inscriptions that were also used as oracles, were unearthed in the 16th century. The Lombards destroyed the Roman playground in the 6th century, it was rebuilt later and expanded when Abano became an autonomous municipality in the 12th century and again in the late 14th century.

Montegrotto Terme

Montegrotto Terme

Like Abano, Montegrotto Terme (Venetian: Montegròto) is located in the Colli Euganei, in the province of Padua and about 45 kilometers from Venice. Montegrotto's claim to fame is the swimming pool and spa of Hotel Terme Millepini, which holds Guinness World Record for deepest swimming pool in the world.

Tuscany

MONTECATINI TERME

Tettuccio termen in Montecatini Terme

The thermal baths of Montecatini are scattered throughout the center, but you will find them especially along the Viale Verdi. Amidst large green lawns with beautifully tended gardens and centuries-old trees, the classicist monuments hide from clear view. Chairs are available around the publicly accessible springs where you can relax and enjoy a (free) glass of clear spring water (not so great tasting though). From a historical perspective, the thermal baths of Tettucio are the most interesting. Legend has it that the name of these caves, discovered in 1370, derives from the small canopy put up by poor peasants to protect the entrance to the spring. In the 18th century, the Tuscan Grand Duke Leopoldo had the first thermal baths constructed and the façade of what is now protected as a national monument. The other buildings were designed by the architect Ugo Giovannozzi in Art Nouveau style of the '20s. The baths of the mundane Excelsior Hotel and the Leopoldine baths were built in 1775 by order of Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo 1, Montecatini

The thermal baths are in a beautiful park with cypresses, palms, acacias and laurel bushes. In spring and summer when the flowers are in full bloom, the park is an oasis and a perfect environment for cooling down when the weather is hot with a glass of freshly tapped thermal water. The terms of Tettuccio, in contrast to many spas, are open for visits of tourists (entrance fee € 8).

Outside Montecatini are the Grotto Guisti spa with allegedly more mythical stories to tell, in the small sister town of Monsummano Terme. The caves of the Grotto Guisti Spa are promoted as a 'natural paradise'. The caves themselves are divided into the chambers called "paradise", "purgatory" and "hell". The nineteenth-century villa was recently restored into its former glory balancing every detail, from inlaid wooden floors, lighting, colors to enhance the atmosphere and comfort of a charming hotel, giving you a feeling of well being before descending into that unique and beautiful cave with a underground lake with warm water and spectacular salts, where the temperature seems to be regulated by a natural organism.

Grotta Giusti

CHIANCIANO TERME 

The history of Chianciano Terme dates back to the 5th century B.C., when the Etruscans built a temple dedicated to the god of good health, near the Silene springs where the more recent district of Chianciano is located (the part whit the thermal baths). Rumors about the healing power of the waters of Chianciano reached the Romans, Horace, for one, visited the area on the advice of his physician in the 1st century BC. The Romans built luxury villas in the vicinity of the thermal baths as they did in other thermal areas. Today the ancient part of Chianciano Terme (Chianciano Vecchia) is very charming with a beautiful view over the Tuscan hills. 

Chianciano Vecchia

The new part with bathing establishments was built during the 60-70's and is a bit boring I think. However, these baths are considered to be among the best spas in Italy with nice parks and numerous hotels, you cannot escape the feeling of being in some sort of sanatorium. The therapeutic water of Chianciano Terme is excellent for people with liver and respiratory problems. The spa complexes are called Acqua Santa, Acqua Fucoli, Acqua Sillene, Acqua Santissima (respiratory issues), and Acqua Sant'Elena (water with high calcium-alkaline bicarbonate in the water which is good for kidney and urinary tract difficulties).

Terme Sensoriale di Chianciano Terme

Saturnia Thermes

The Terme di Saturnia are a group of springs located in the municipality of Manciano in Tuscany, a few kilometers from the village of Saturnia. The springs that feed the baths are located in the southeastern valley and cover a vast area stretching from Mount Amiata and the hills of the rivers Fiora and Albegna to the Maremma grossetana in Roselle (Terme di Roselle) and Talamone (Terme dell'Osa). A legend, according to the Etruscans and Romans, was that the Terme di Saturnia were formed by lightning bolts, thrown by Jupiter at Saturn.

Cascate del Mulino, Saturnia, Toscane

During a fierce argument between the two mythological gods, the lightning bolts aimed at Saturn missed their target, causing the formations of the springs. The sulfurous spring water, with a temperature of 37.5 °C, is known for its therapeutic properties and offers relaxation and refreshment while bathing in its waters. The main thermal waterfalls are the ones near the ancient watermill, other waterfalls people visit are the ones of Gorello. The yield of the source is about 800 liters per second, which guarantees an optimal replacement of water. The chemical composition is sulfur, carbon, sulfate, bicarbonate-alkali, earth, with the presence of hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide. The minerals dissolved in the water amount to 2.79 grams per liter.
The area of Saturnia Terme is well known because of the iconic pictures you undoubtedly saw somewhere on a poster before and has a large and freely accessible area, whereas the famous luxury spa hotel of Terme di Saturnia is located a few miles away, where in addition to various thermal treatments you can indulge into the various thermal perfumes and creams produced for men and women.

Southern Italy spa and springs

Further to the south in Tuscany there are plenty of thermal springs, but unfortunately none with beautiful SPA resorts. Most of the springs are the result of volcanic activity. which provides hot water pools and sulphide rich water. As we go even more to the south Telese and Fiuggi Terme are best known for thermal baths, Telese is located north of Benevento and not far from the city of Caserta, known for the beautiful palace of Caserta in Campania.  Fiuggi Terme is in Lazio on the border of Abruzzo, an area known for its seismic activity.  Between Tuscany and Lazio there are several small natural baths like Terme di Papi, Bagni San Filippo, Terme di Bulicane, Piscine Carletti in. My favorite volcanic baths are on the small island Vulcano opposite the port city of Messina on the island of Sicily. 

The public Bagni di San Fillipo in southern Tuscany

Fiuggi Terme in Lazio

The water  of Fiuggi Terme near Rome is low in salt but apparently increases the male potential, so I've been told. The thermal springs of Fiuggi were known in Roman times, but after the castle of Anticoli was built, the fame of the springs grew bigger. At the beginning of the twentieth century the springs were officially inaugurated by Pope Boniface VIII, soon after  the Grand Hotel Palazzo della Fonte was built.  The hot springs have two sources: Fonte Bonifacio VIII and Fonte Anticolana, used to treat the respiratory and urinary tract thanks to its powerful mineral elements. The city is surrounded by forests and other historical sites worth visiting, such as Cassino and Anagni. 

Ex Grand Hotel Fiuggi Terme

Terme Telese in Campania

The splendid natural pool of Lago di Telese

Telese Terme did not originate during the Roman Empire. The hot springs were discovered after the earthquake of 1349, which created them. Since, the fame of these hot springs has continued to grow and attracts more and more visitors. The current thermal baths were built at the end of the 19th century thanks to the efforts of the Minieri family. A few years latrer, the Grandi Stabilimenti Balneari di Telese were founded. The large pavillion is at the heart of the complex, where swimmers passed by before and after bathing. The thermal waters of Telese Terme are a naturally sparkling type of water that is sulphurous, calcareous and rich in mineral salts like magnesium and bicarbonate. Website : https://www.termeditelese.it

The entrance to Terme di Telese

Vulcano on the Aeolian Islands

The baths of Vulcano are fascinating and only 100 years old. You can soak in the volcanic mud overlooking the sea for as long as you like but the strong smell will haunt you. The mud is rich in sulfur which has a beneficial effect on the body. In addition, on the coast of Vulcano there are fascinating 'fumaroles', a kind of natural hot tub.

Vulcano Island mudbaths


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